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Bible Scriptures, Ministry

God’s Grace to the Sinner & the Saint

The story of the prodigal son, which is found in Luke 15: 11-32, tells of a young man who squanders his inheritance through wild partying and reckless spending.

But after losing everything, he resorts to taking a job feeding pigs. He’s so poor when a famine hits that he steals chow from the pigs in order to quiet the rumblings in his own stomach.

Hitting rock bottom, the story indicates that this young man finally “came to his senses,” realizing that even the hired hands on his father’s farm were in a better position than he was in that moment.

He set out to go back to his father, and on his way plans what he will say to him: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”

But before the young man could even get the words out, his father, seeing his son approaching in the distance, starts to sprint, embraces and welcomes his child home.

Imagine the look on his young son’s face when he felt his father’s arms wrap around his frail body.

The parable is such a beautiful metaphor for the redemption and reconciliation that awaits anyone who turns away from wrongdoing and seeks a relationship with God.

It serves as a great reminder that the almighty God always, always meets us where we are.

Anger after years of devotion

Meanwhile, in verses 25-32, the eldest son — the one who committed his life and made the choice to doing his father’s work — is fuming, becoming angrier as he witnessed his younger brother receiving the royal treatment.

I can just hear the disgruntlement begin to percolate.

Who does he think he is showing up after all this time?
He thinks he’s so special.
What about me? Look at everything I’ve done for Father!

The older son, like a petty child, refused to take part in the festivities to celebrate his little brother’s homecoming.

Seething, I’m sure, the Bible says he “refuses to go in.”

In another surprising act, the father leaves the party and goes outside to reason with the older son.

Bible scholars believe that ancient hearers might have expected the father to discipline the elder son; instead, the father listens to his son, and in a loving and understanding tone attempts to impart wisdom as the sounds of revelry reverberate in the background.

The elder son laments:

Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

Was the older son hurt? It sure sounds like it.

Was the older son bitter? You bet.

In his mind, he had devoted himself to doing what the father wanted, and wasn’t so much as thanked for his devotion. He believed he was entitled to the better treatment. He was superior, he thought. But, in fact, he was wrong.

The father, gracious and all-knowing, saw otherwise. Because the younger son was “dead and is alive again” and “lost and is found” this warranted a celebration.

The parable teaches us what is important to our Father in heaven — and that is, when a lost soul comes home. Commitment and devotion are pleasing in the Lord’s sight, too. But when our motives are self-centered, as is shown by the elder son,  this bothers God. And it should also bother us.

Which ‘son’ are you?

At times we are that lost child as is the prodigal son, the one who strays. The one who squanders everything. The one who then grovels back to God for forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the other hand, especially for those who’ve walked faithfully with the Lord for some time, it’s easy to follow the pattern of the elder son, who grew bitter, jealous and prideful after years of dedication.

Which one are you?

I believe the older son could have prevented his unrighteous response.

At least, I’d like to think he could.

And here’s how I believe those in ministry and in other leadership roles can avoid resentment while in service to others:

  • Be open about your shortcomings and confess your sins. No one is perfect. Not even the most devoted Christian. Routinely humble yourself before God, and a trusted spiritual mentor, as you examine your heart and actions. Romans 3:23 NIV says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moreover, no one “should claim to be without sin,” according to 1 John 1:8 NIV.
  • Show compassion. God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, according to 2 Chronicles 30:9 and Psalm 86:15. Throughout the Bible, God rescues and forgives his people when they turn back to Him. In the same way, Jesus showed compassion “when he saw the crowds… because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV) What this world absolutely needs from those who are faithful to God, is more compassion, more love and more grace. After all, that is what God showed us because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)
  • Share your testimony and minister to others. If you’re a believer, then the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 applies to you. We are called to baptize and to teach others. Holding a pastoral role, in whatever capacity in your local church, puts you in a position to regularly share how God has changed you and is currently shaping you. Don’t miss out on that opportunity by using your leadership role to talk only about how “great” your life is or what blessings God is bestowing on your life or barking orders about what other church members “need” to do. Rather, use it is a platform to elevate the love and mercy God extends to anyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus. Share your story. As a result, I pray, as the Apostle Paul writes in Philemon 6, that your partnership in the faith “may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.”
  • Stop thinking you’re better than someone else. The Apostle Paul urges believers in Romans 12:3 (NIV): “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” He is referring in this passage to roles in the church, but the advice is appropriate for any situation. The statement could’ve certainly helped knock some sense into the elder brother in an ancient parable that continues to teach modern-day believers the value of right-sized thinking in times when all seems ….”unfair.”

Share your thoughts! How do you guard against disgruntlement, discontent and bitterness while serving in ministry or other leadership roles in and outside the church?

Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 8: Has Your Love Grown Cold?

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold... Matthew 24:12

This was the scripture that led the discussion at a recent midweek service. It was a topic that immediately struck a cord because I had been thinking about disobedience and sin — the things that can separate us from God.

The scriptures and questions that followed probed my heart, and I’m sure others in the room.

They were the kind of questions that I think were meant to make you stop and think about whether you were in right standing with the Lord.

The pastor comfortingly urged us to explore the questions, honestly and with intentionality.

You see, what keeps us in communion with God is our heart. We can be doing and saying all the “right” things, the religious things, but if our heart’s not really focused on the Lord and His will for our lives, then it’s all just facade.

A heart for God follows the pattern of 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Indeed, there is an urgency to get right with God. You’re alarmed by unrighteous behavior. And you’re concerned that a misalignment with God leads to disconnection with Him.

For this reason, I want to share my notes with you from that night, in hopes that you, too, will allow your heart to be pierced.

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. It’s time to reclaim your First Love.

Let’s explore…

  1. If the Bible did a quick body scan of your thoughts and heart, would it register as ‘devoted’?
  2. When was the last time you had a deep dive in God’s word, the Holy Bible?
  3. When we read the Bible does it ‘read’ you back? The Word of God should be a mirror. James 1 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror.” In other words, are you letting the Bible change you, or are you walking away having no sense of your condition before God? Just like a woman checks her appearance before walking out the door, so should the Bible govern your attitudes and behaviors at all times and help you “course correct” before you get off track.
  4. Are you reading the Bible simply for information — or transformation?
  5. Don’t violate the boundaries that God has set for your protection, or you will succumb to evil desires. You will eventually lose your identity in Christ and start to reflect the world.
  6. Love grows cold when there is an increase in obscenity, debauchery, perversion, laziness, selfishness, pride, and disobedience to God’s Word.
  7. When there is an increase of man there is an decrease of God. In other words, if you’re constantly putting your needs and desires before God’s expect a lesser degree of holy living and God’s blessings to follow.
  8. When your spirituality is compromised, one’s love for God grows cold.
  9. Even as a self-proclaimed Christian/disciple of Christ, you can be physically present in church even though your heart has departed from God a while ago. Is your heart still aligned with pursuing righteousness?
  10. Is Satan ‘doing’ you in? Sin can make you feel weighed down, “spiritually fat,” and out of shape. According to John 10:10, the enemy’s only intent is on stealing, killing and destroying you. However, the good news is that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is here to give you life in abundance!
  11. Are you obedient?
  12. Do you weigh your life on a righteous scale? Or do you weigh your life on a worldly scale?
  13. Are you spiritually able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit? Or are you falling behind? What’s holding you back?
  14. What are some habits of Godly living? Daily time with God, meditation on the scriptures, exhibiting fruits of the Spirit, sharing your faith, etc.
  15. Is your spiritual life a bestseller?
  16. Do you add light or darkness in your relationships? Is your inner spirit dead or alive?

I certainly hope you have found these questions and insights into God’s word heart-probing and that they help you reach higher spiritual ground!

Any questions or insight on staying close to God despite the increased wickedness in the world? Weigh in in the comments section below. Remember this: There is always hope in Jesus Christ! So please don’t despair. Blessing to you, my friend!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith

Devotional 7: Does God Promise Us a ‘Good Life’?

The short answer is ‘no.’

God does not promise us a “good” life. But we can certainly offer Him a life that is “good,” by becoming a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing” to Him, according to Romans 12:1.


There’s one important thing you learn in journalism school and that is balanced reporting.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about answered prayers.

I shared how God was refining my character during a time of waiting, and how, eventually, God made a way for that prayer to be answered.

What I didn’t touch on is this: Your prayers won’t always get answered. And if they are answered, it may not be in the form you had hoped.

There’s a common misconception in the Christian community that God “wants” to bless us.

But is that true and, more importantly, is that biblical?

First of all, it’s important to distinguish what that word “bless” means. To one person it means material gain and to another it pertains to spiritual benefits, such as peace, eternal life with God, healing from past sin, comfort in times of trouble, etc.

That latter description would be more accurate.

Does God have plans to prosper you?

An often quoted scripture to espouse God’s desire for blessing is Jeremiah 29:11-14.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.

Taken out of context, this is a great feel-good scripture.

In America, we often make the mistake of translating this passage to mean we’ll get that bigger house and fancier car, or that we’ll rarely face a deadly sickness, or that we’ll land that next big career move, etc.

Thanks to the rampant “prosperity gospel” preached today, we are always at risk of applying scriptures to the superficial.

But, be assured of this, when God speaks He has something much bigger, more eternal, in mind: our salvation.

The Jeremiah promise can certainly be applied to modern-day believers, but it’s important to read the passage (or chapters) in its entirety.

The prophetic message was to the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who continuously wandered away from the truth and worshiped other gods.

The prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to tell the Israelites how they were royally messing up in the eyes of the Lord, and to turn from their wrongdoing — immediately, or else.

Have you ever outright resisted God’s commands?

The people of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel, whom Jeremiah is addressing in this passage, were an obstinate people, resisting God’s standard.

Still, the Lord cared for them. And God continually sent prophets to warn them when they forsook God in favor of a lesser, often handmade, deity.

Jeremiah described it best in chapter 25 verse 3:

For 23 years — from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon King of Judah until this very day — the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” (emphasis mine)

Did you catch the last part there?



God says to “turn,” “do not follow,” “do not provoke,” and “…then I will not harm you.”

There is a condition attached to God’s protection that is made clear in this passage before we even get to the promise that so many of us like to quote in Jeremiah 29.

What’s the lesson here?

Simply that, in order to apply Jeremiah 29: 11-14 (God’s protection from harm, spiritual prosperity and so on) to your present-day life, it’s imperative to also adhere to Jeremiah 25, which dictates a number of offenses on the part of the Israelites which we are susceptible to doing as well.

Therefore, if you want to slap the Jeremiah 29:11-14 bumper sticker to your life, go right ahead.

But be aware of the conditions, according to Jeremiah 25:

  1. Don’t ignore God. If you hear His voice, listen, pay attention and do what He says. Where do you “hear” God’s voice? In his Word, of course. The Holy Bible. Simply read it and apply it your life. While you’re at it, be careful not to cherry pick scriptures, but seek to understand a passage in context.
  2. Turn from your evil ways and practices. (For an overview of specific sins that can separate you from God’s protection, read Galatians 5: 19-21; Mark 7:20-22; Revelation 21:8; 2 Chronicles 33:6)
  3. Do not follow, serve or worship other gods. Other ‘gods’ include another lesser deity but it could mean yourself, a spouse/significant other, children, a celebrity, material possessions, profession/accolades, a t.v. show, etc. — anything or anyone that takes precedence in your life more than serving God.
  4. Do not provoke God to anger. Do a search for what may ‘provoke’ God and refer back to the scriptures on sins mentioned earlier. You’ll find that many acts in the Bible incited God’s anger, including casting spells, speaking to the dead, lack of worship, and sexual sins.

As the book of Jeremiah suggests, a “right” relationship with God — obedience to Him — must always precede any kind of blessing.

To live a “blessed” life, you can never go wrong by patterning your life after his son Jesus, who was without sin.

And that, my dear sisters, takes effort, not perfection.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced a time when repentance led to a spiritual or material blessing? Please share in the comments section below!

Christian Life, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 6: Lesson Learned on a Family Roadtrip

My family and I were in Georgia for the Fourth of July holiday, visiting my mom, dad, and one of my older brothers. The 13-hour drive to see them is always an opportunity to reflect on life and where I’m going.

Long drives can do that, you know.

As we pass other vehicles on the road, destinations and pit stops, it’s a reminder that we’re all on this journey, a journey that is oftentimes rife with the proverbial bumper-to-bumper traffic, detours, bumps in the road, and near-death collisions. Oh, how unexpected life can be.

Long road trips are also a lot of fun. My two children in the back seat, with their endless appetites, chomp away at snacks that I pack for the family. They sometimes fight over who gets to use the electronic device first. Every once in a while, we’ll all join voices and sing one of our favorite gospel songs by Tasha Cobbs, sounding so woefully off-key.

Yes, family road trips are a reminder that life is not all good, but not all bad either.

My dear husband drives about 90 percent of the way. I take a couple of naps during our journey. Feeling refreshed, I ask if he needs a break, and more than often he says no. I offer again as we near Atlanta, which is usually when his fatigue really starts to set in.

As I get behind the wheel, adjust the mirrors and seat, I can’t help but think about how blessed this life is.

For one, it’s a privilege to visit my mom and dad. Though they are getting up and age, and their bodies show signs of wear-and-tear, they are still on this side of heaven. For that, I am grateful.

Family. It warms my heart to be in their presence.

I get a feeling of wholeness when we make the long trek to Georgia from Washington, DC.

Sure, we could take trips to more exotic locations or locales in the U.S. where the air smells different and new. I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind an amusement park now and then, instead of the Georgia countryside. But, no, Disneyworld can wait.

Let’s be honest. Life is so fleeting.

James, Jesus’ brother and a leader in the church, said it best:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If this is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

No matter how long we live, this life is a blink of an eye compared to eternity.

I am humbly aware that my shelf-life here on earth is short. In fact, it is not even in my hands. My life, your life, is in God’s hands.

Being aware of my humanity compels me to listen to the Holy Spirit, which guides me and presses upon my heart the righteous thing to do.

It is that soft whisper that compels me to go see my family whenever there’s a chance. In doing so, I submit to the Lord’s will.

And I am all the more better for it. Time with family, in the place we call our roots, refreshes the soul.

As James suggested, tomorrow is not promised. Our earthly lifetime is, indeed, short. Therefore, let’s not put off tomorrow, what we could do today.

Here are some simple ideas from my own life:

  1. Spend quality time with a loved one.
  2. Call a friend/family member and tell them you love them.
  3. Forgive a wrong.
  4. Speak honestly to someone who needs it.
  5. Give a much-needed hug.
  6. Let go of regret.
  7. Kick a bad habit.
  8. Try something new.
  9. Get real with God and turn away from a sin/fear/doubt/insecurity/bitterness, etc.
  10. Serve someone in need.

What are you putting off tomorrow, that you could be doing today?

Devotionals, Faith, Family

Devotional 5: The Summer We Unintentionally Lived Minimally

2016 was the year we sold our first “family” home.

It was the house my husband and I brought our two children to after leaving the hospital. It was where we struggled financially to make ends meet after I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. It was also where I studied the Bible with a number of women, had house church with fellow disciples and prayed over countless situations.

But it was time for a change, preferably one that was a little bigger than the 2-bedroom, 1 bath, 800-square-foot row house our family had outgrown.

Like most life situations, this change did not come easy and was a long time coming.

After living in that home for nearly 8 years, we put our house on the market in August of 2016.

Though we got an offer the first week, we actually didn’t sell the house until the following year in June.

Because of the timing of the sell, we had to move into a hotel for a week as we waited to close on a house that we put an offer on. We put an offer on a house, but it appeared the seller was having second thoughts.

This is the part of the story where God’s sovereignty really shines.

That week of “homelessness” (I use that term lightly) turned into two weeks.

During this time, I started praying fervently. I told God about my hesitation in buying that particular house because it needed a lot of work. I let Him know that I didn’t feel right about it. Our goal was to move to a safer, more family-friendly neighborhood, I said, not to find ourselves in a situation that would frustrate us and lead to mounting debt in trying to modernize this fixer upper.

Finally, I asked and petitioned God to make it clear. Make it clear he did.

A day after that prayer, we got a call from our realtor saying the seller was withdrawing the contract because they found a better buyer.

God answers prayers, y’all!!

Minimalist life

The story doesn’t end there, however.

We proceeded to move from that hotel to another hotel. From one Airbnb to another Airbnb, and finally to a friend’s house and rental by the end of summer. We moved 9 times the summer of 2016!

We lived out of two suitcases during that entire time. We were living the Minimalist life!

Ironically, my kids were unfazed by all the moving. Quite frankly, if it were not for having to move so often, it was actually quite liberating not having a mortgage or utility bills.

I learned some things about myself during that time that has proved invaluable.

  1. I need a lot less “stuff” than I have. (This isn’t the first time I’ve lived with next to nothing in my possession, so this wasn’t especially new.)
  2. God wants to renew your faith during times of  wilderness (and bewilderment). When you’re not sure what’s happening, it’s a great time to simply be still.

As we were waiting for someone to buy our home, and as we looked to buy a new one ourselves, so many scenarios were playing through my mind. Doubt. Fear. Even a little bitterness.

Bible Application

Thankfully, I did a deep Bible study leading up to the Summer of 2016 that reminded me of God’s sovereignty during that time.

I studied the early days of the Israelites and their pilgrimage to the Promised Land, I see a God who is gracious and just, devoted and faithful — despite our lack of faith and obedience.

He desires dependence, trust and faith in Him — not faith in our ability to please Him.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV

Despite the uncertainty, I recalled times past.

God has never failed me. And I’m sure if you look back on your life, He has never failed you either.

As for me, I only needed to trust in Him and his divine purpose for my life, my family’s life.

As I surrendered, gradually at first, I began to rest in God’s holiness and grew confident in the direction he was ushering us in. I knew he wouldn’t leave us without a place to land.

I also knew that it was no coincidence that the offer on the original house we offered to purchase fell through!

We eventually did find our ideal home at the price point we could afford.

Do I need to say it again? God answers prayers, y’all!!

If you’re struggling in your faith, just remember what God has already brought you through. Live and walk in righteousness and obedience to Him, and he will give you rest.

“Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6 NIV

Is God testing you? In what areas of your life do you need more faith and/or obedience? Share in the comments section below!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 4: Waiting on the Lord

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV

When you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers, do you doubt or have faith?

Three years ago, I sat on a friend’s living room sofa on the verge of tears.

I felt stuck. I wanted out.

More specifically, I was growing weary of living in a two-bedroom, one bath house in a rough part of the city.

I wanted something better for our young family. But “better” was taking too long to get here.

My dear friend listened as I lamented. She offered some encouragement.

While it didn’t make things better right away, the talk did help me gain some perspective. And it gave me a chance to off-load some things that were weighing on my heart.

The epiphany: My lack of faith

It was around that time that I realized I was failing to trust in the Lord.

It had been 7 years since we moved into that house, when we thought we’d only be there for two.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith.

I started wondering if God didn’t want our family to move.

Is there something in my character that God wants to prune?, I thought.

Perhaps there’s someone here that he wants me to reach on His behalf, my mind wandered.

Or could it be that we’re just not ‘ready’ for that kind of blessing and responsibility? I asked quietly.

Over the next several months, I prayed. Studied the scriptures. And asked the Lord to show me where I was falling short.

He did, in fact, reveal some things that was darkening my heart and chipping away at my faith.

Once corrected, I saw the darkness lift.

My faith was restored.

Suddenly, I started to dream again.

Taking steps to receive the blessing.

With the Lord’s help, our family took steps that put us in a position to buy a new home.

But of all the things we did in preparation for the next stage, the most critical step was the clarifying moment when I repented of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that:

“[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In reading the gospels, it was evident that people lacking faith displeased Jesus, and dare I say, even disgusted him?

See Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31 and Luke 12:28.

Therefore, dear friends, I pray that wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you currently face, that you have faith in the midst of the difficulty.

James 1:6 NIV puts it plainly:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I don’t share this story to claim that simply repenting can lead to material blessings. That would be misguided and unspiritual. I share this story to show that there is often a direct relation between our circumstance and our faith and obedience to God.

So, what happened in the end?

How does my story end, you ask?

Well, I’m sitting here in a new home that is more spacious and, for the most part, considerably safer. And I praise God for revealing my shortcoming and allowing a chance to change courses.

It only took about two years from the day I sat on my friend’s couch for God to deliver an outcome I had once thought was so far out of reach.

Lessons learned?

Wait “expectantly” for the Lord, as Psalm 5:3 suggests. Trust that He hears your prayers and wants to refine you, and not necessarily to withhold from you. Don’t doubt.

I wonder what God will do in your life two years from now? Where in your life do you need to replace doubt with faith?

Christian Life, Faith, Prayer

Devotional 3: Let’s Get Real

One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. Steven Furtick

Seven months ago, we moved into a new home.

My husband came home and said one of his supervisors suggested he host a get-together at our house as a kick-off and team building effort. He immediately quipped, saying “I don’t have a big house. I don’t have much furniture. Have you seen what I drive? It’s a beat-up, 10 year-old Toyota Forerunner. People would not be impressed with our home.”

It’s not that he was opposed to hosting something, but he knew from this supervisor’s request that she assumed we lived in well-off. To an extent, we do. But probably not in a way that was percolating in her mind’s eye.

The fact of the matter is, there’s a tendency in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area to live up to other people’s expectations and to use an old phrase, “Keep up with the Jones’.”

I’ll be honest, that desire sometimes hits me, too. And I fight it. I fight it hard!

I’ve grown to appreciate and seek God’s approval over others. So if someone doesn’t appreciate my house for what it is? It doesn’t matter because it’s beautiful to me. (At least, that’s what I tell myself, even when I only half believe it.)

But I’ll be honest, the suggestion from my husband’s colleague did bring up some insecurities. And I wondered where my confidence truly lies.

Are you an effective witness for Christ online?

Like I said, I struggle with trying to give the appearance that I’ve got it all together and that my house, and my life, is picture perfect. But that wouldn’t be true. And when you think about it, what’s so wrong being imperfect, authentic and honest?

We live during a time where people, even Christians, crave attention, acquiring it through more “likes,” “followers,” and accolades. 

When did disciples of Jesus become such attention-seekers and spotlight hoggers? (Is that a word?)

It’s a tricky thing when you’re a Christian, too. Because there’s a temptation to play up your Christiandom. An update might read: “Wow. I’m so humbled to serve the poor today. #servingtheneedy”

Do humble people really need to announce on social networks what they’ve accomplished for the Lord?

I tell you, no. In fact, the Bible offers instructions on how to behave in situations such as this. Check this out:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… Matt. 6

If Jesus doesn’t want one hand to know what the other hand is doing, how much more would he disapprove of behavior that publicly showcases what are supposed to be humble acts of service?

When is it okay to ‘brag’?

Do you think there’s a way to share about these things without it being borderline or outright boastful? Perhaps.

How about inviting others to join you? What about sharing of a time when you weren’t so focused on other people, and because of Christ, you are able to help others today?

How about including scriptures on why it’s important to serve the poor? How about sharing about those acts of kindness as a way to persuade more people to follow Jesus, not follow you?

Let’s see what the Bible says about this…

But let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,
declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24 NIV

And again…

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 NIV

I recently wrote about the work that I’ve put into our little fixer-upper of a house. And when I reflect on that work,  it keeps me humble.

It reminds me of what it means to be frugal and wise with the money the Lord has blessed us with. And it reminds me that your house doesn’t necessarily be a masterpiece and impeccably designed in order for it to be a “home.” That what really matters is the presence of love inside those walls.

Similarly, as Christians, we don’t have to be perfect, or appear perfect, to be an effective witness for Christ.

In fact, authenticity and humility should rule our hearts — not the prospect for more likes, followers and high-fives from others, the onlookers and lurkers of the internet (as tempting as they may be).

What about you? How are you an effective witness for Christ on social media and in life in general?

Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

Faith, Family, Inspiration, Prayer

Devotional 2: God’s Hidden Messages

Now that my daughter, who recently turned 9, is tall enough to reach the mirror over the bathroom sink, she often spends extra minutes after her shower standing in the steam doodling on a foggy mirror. She writes messages attempting to make contact with anyone who will notice her scribbles, which can only be seen from a certain angle — a slant to the left and a slant to the right, usually.

Her most recent message appeared to be meant for my husband. I love you Daddy, she wrote.

I don’t think she realized it yet, but he recently replied back to her: I love you very much. Daddy

God often communicates in much the same way to his devoted daughters, doesn’t He?

He sends hidden messages to his daughter throughout the day, weeks, months and years, letting his devoted daughter know that she is seen, heard, worthy and loved by Him.

These divine messages, however, require a certain spiritual outlook in order to be seen. Much like the tilting of the head to decipher a note on the foggy mirror, you must angle yourself, rooted in scripture, to discover God’s notes of encouragement and admonishment.

Indeed, the messages aren’t always obvious; hence, why I call them ‘hidden.’ They are embedded in the holes and corners of life, indiscernible by the hurried and worried disciple.

The messages are delicately inscribed throughout the mundane, everyday routines of life, too. Much like the words composed on a foggy bathroom mirror. They can only be seen by the keen, discerning eye.

Do you hear His call?

In a whisper he calls out to her. His daughter need only listen and watch. Listen and watch.

It is the message of hope when you get word that your best friend’s cancer has gone into remission.

I hear your prayers, says the Lord.

It is the message of unconditional love, when your child tackles you from behind and with tightly wrapped arms says, ‘I love you, Mommy.’

As do I, says the King.

It is the message of wholeness when he binds up your wounds and mends your broken heart.

My arms are not too short to save, He proclaims.

His voice is also hidden in a message of grace, when you fall short of His glory but vow to walk in obedience next time, and the time after that.

I see you, God says, and I will stoop down from my heavenly throne to make you great.

Dear sister, God’s messages are nested in all sorts of places in your life. You need only wait in holy expectation.

It is a daughter’s resolve to reach the Holy One, connecting with Him through the messages of a righteous life lived — indeed, her devotion — that compels the Good Father to take notice, and to respond.

Whether in the Bible or in the nooks and crannies of your life, how is God speaking to you?

Prayer

Dear Lord, you are a good, good Father. Help me to have eyes to see and ears to hear when you are speaking to me. Teach me, O God, how to discern your whispers even when the world calls out in its loud, distracting voice. Give me the strength and resolve to be obedient to your call. And grant me peace and contentment as I walk with you all the days of my life.

Christian Life, Faith, Inspiration

Devotional 1: Fixer Upper

Several months ago, we moved into a new home.

The new home is definitely an upgrade from the two-bedroom, one bath, 800-square foot abode that we owned and resided for 8 years prior.

The new neighborhood is much quieter and safer, too.

But if I’m being honest. The new house is a bit of a fixer-upper, too. And it is not the kind of fixer-upper you’re going to see transformed in a 20-minute segment like that on Joanna and Chip’s HGTV hit show, Fixer Upper.

It’s the kind of house that you know is a bit of a fixer upper when you buy it, but vow to turn it into something beautiful later on. Much later on. Not in, like, two weeks. We’re talking over the course of two years (at least). Because let’s face it, renovations cost money and, like the old saying goes: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

To commence our renovation journey (remember, we’re in it for the long haul), I did several inexpensive DIY projects myself.

I stripped off the dingy, dirty carpet on the stairs. I pried out thousands of tiny, blood-thirsty carpet nails over the course of 8 months.

I sanded the stairs lightly, and then patched a number of holes and gaps with a white putty substance that dries and is paintable in minutes. Lastly, I slathered the stairs with three coats of white paint.

The tile floor was grungy, but in good shape. So I spent a number of days pouring caustic cleaner on it and letting it sit. When it started to bubble and fizz, I knew the dirt was loosening, and I’d scrub the grout lines and wipe away the grime.

I tell ya, those fumes nearly killed me, but I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed until the grout lines started to reveal their original hue.

In the kitchen, I painted the ceiling and walls, as well as put a fresh coat of paint on the surface of the cabinets. Endured more cleaning. And I installed a faux backsplash. (Please try not to judge me for my sink full of dirty dishes.)

In my haste to see the transformation come quickly, I ripped up the laminate wood floors in the dining room, hoping to find original hardwood floors underneath.

To my dismay, what appeared were run-of-the-mill subfloors. I had already discarded the laminate floor slabs, and so we are currently making do with our subfloors.

We’ll eventually purchase new hardwood floors and we plan to invest in a new dining table, but because moving is costly we are trying to be wise with our expenditures, not moving too hastily to buy a new ‘this’ and a new ‘that.’

As I’m making improvements around my new house, I can’t help but wonder if God sees me the same way — that I’m a little bit of a fixer upper, too, that needs some tender-loving care.

In fact, I really don’t need to wonder. Because I’m pretty certain He does. Psalm 139: 13 says that God “created my inmost being” and that He “knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Yes, my sisters, he is restoring me and making me whole once more. That which sin made dirty and unrecognizable from its original conception, He is making clean again.

I was 19 years old when God called me into this life called discipleship.

And since then, through character-building life events, He has chipped away at the faulty exterior and built in me a new way of thinking and patterns of righteous behavior.

With His skilled hand in my life, the good Lord continues to make me over, transforming my proverbial interior and exterior construction into, one glorious day, a sight to behold.

And just like my own home renovation project, this fixer upper called Emily, is still a work in progress.

How is the Lord still working on you?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 NIV

Prayer

Lord almighty, you are a righteous God who sees me in all of my mess and, yet, extends your hand to me with loving grace. I praise you for first creating me, and then making me whole and clean again through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. May I always answer your call to be made new from the inside-out, all the days of my life. Amen.